Author of 'Killing Fields' Book to Speak at Holocaust Memorial
NEW PALTZ -- Sydney H. Schanberg, whose reporting on the killing of two million Cambodians in the 1970s earned him the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, will be the featured speaker at this year's Louis and Mildred Resnick Holocaust Memorial at SUNY New Paltz. The memorial will be held at 8 p.m., April 17, in Lecture Center Room 100.
Schanberg's chilling account of the Cambodia massacre and the near-death of his trusted aide and interpreter was the basis for the Academy Award-winning film "The Killing Fields," named after the rural fields where the victims were killed and then buried in shallow graves.
Schanberg spent several years as a New York Times foreign correspondent. He received the Pulitzer Prize for courageous reporting from Cambodia's capital as it fell to the communist forces of the Khmer Rouge in the spring of 1975. In the years that followed, an estimated 25 percent of the county's population died from starvation, torture or execution.
"Schanberg is, in fact, a witness to an extraordinary episode of human history," said New Paltz Professor Gerald Sorin, who directs the university's Jewish Studies Program. "He didn't physically intervene in the event himself - he could not. But he helped inform the world about what was going on."
Schanberg's lecture, "The Importance of Being a Witness," will focus on the devastation of the once beautiful and thriving Cambodia as seen through the eyes of his companion and guide, Dith Pran. The five years Dith spent imprisoned in the communist-controlled country and his struggle for freedom was the basis of Schanberg's book "The Death and Life of Dith Pran."
"It's painful for him to talk about, but it's something he feels he has to do," said Sorin.
Schanberg won the Pulitzer in 1976. He went on to become a crusading columnist on the op-ed pages of the Times and New York Newsday.
The 12th annual Holocaust Memorial is made possible by a grant to the New Paltz Foundation from Louis and Mildred Resnick, of Ellenville. Each year the Resnick Institute of Jewish Studies invites a guest to the memorial to speak about the horror, history and lessons of various incidents of genocide worldwide, including, but not limited to, the Nazi Holocaust of the 1940s.
Explained Sorin, "We are doing this, not simply to pay homage to victims, but to create some consciousness of what happened in the past, in the hope of helping to prevent events like the Holocaust from occurring in the future."
Schanberg is currently the James. H. Ottaway Sr. Fellow in the college's Journalism Program. The fellowship comes from a gift to the college by Jim Ottaway Jr., the publisher of the Times Herald Record of Middletown and several other newspapers. Schanberg is currently teaching a class at New Paltz entitled "The News the Press Doesn't Cover."
The event is free and open to the public.
Editor's Note: A photo of Sydney Schanberg is available online at http://hawk.newpaltz.edu/news/images/schanberg.html. The caption for the photo is: "Pulitzer prize-winning writer Sydney Schanberg, currently the James H. Ottaway Sr. Fellow at SUNY New Paltz, will speak about the massacres led by the Kmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s at the university's annual Holocaust Memorial on April 17."
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